(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 1 Peter 2:11-12
I tend to think of foreigners, strangers and exiles as people from foreign countries who cross our borders — immigrants. I think of myself as belonging; I am born, raised and living in this country — my country.
After studying this passage, however, I need to rethink this concept of belonging. Peter calls us “foreigners” and “temporary residents.” Other translations use words like “aliens” and “exiles.” I need to readjust my thinking from belonging here to belonging with Christ. This is where the resident card disappears. I am the one who does not belong here.
Because my life is in Christ, I am the real stranger. Like Larry Norman, we are “only visiting this planet,” and sadly for us, his visit was all too short. But for Larry, he is not sad. Rather, he rejoices in his real home, which is in heaven.
Yet, knowing our eternal destination and recognizing we are just visiting this planet, we must never consider ourselves as tourists. Rather we live out our faith as we engage in our culture, embrace those around us, and bear the power of God on those in need, always looking to the hope that lies ahead.
It’s a lot like what God told the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah while they were in exile in Babylon:
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7
We raise our children and grandchildren here; we work for the peace and prosperity within this place we live, and we pray for its wellbeing — all the while aware of the fact that this is not our home. This is not Jerusalem.
We are the temporary residents here. We are the foreigners. We, like the immigrants and refugees around the world, go deep into the fields to attend to the seekers and the lost. We put our arms around each other, always conveying a deep appreciation for the kingdom of God that has come and the fact that we are all about kingdom business in a kingdom that is not of this world.